Embodied practice and relational public space. Bridging critical social practice, planning and design through education

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Traditional approaches to understand space tend to view public space mainly as a shell or container, focussing on its morphological structures and functional uses. That way, its everchanging meanings, contested or challenged uses have been largely ignored, as well as the contextual and ongoing dynamics between social actors, their cultures, and struggles. The key role of space in enabling spatial opportunities for social action, the fluidity of its social meaning and the changing degree of "publicness" of a space remain unexplored fields of academic inquiry and professional practice. This paper offers a different understanding of public spaces in the city. Its objective is to (re)introduce the embodied experiences in public life into the teaching curricula of those academic disciplines which deal with public space and the built environment (architecture, planning, urban design, the social sciences, etc.). Relational theories of public spaces have been frequently discussed over the last decade, with differences in their way of addressing the relations between city materialities and social practice. The paper gives an insight into a recently evolving stream of relational pedagogy of public space, where theory of space is informed by perspectives and abstractions taken from human action constitiuting space, and related bodily encounters. Taking the example of the unexplored potentials of embodied cultures in public space, this presentation seeks to bridge theoretical approaches in urban studies and an introduction to performative tools in planning and architecture with the objective to highlight the everyday patterns and rhythms as starting point for theory building.
Book of proceedings: Annual AESOP Congress, Definite Space – Fuzzy Responsibility, Prague, 13-16th July, 2015
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